It's Hard To Be A Jew On Christmas

Illustration for article titled It's Hard To Be A Jew On Christmas

Tomorrow's Christmas, or, as I knew it throughout my childhood, that day when I'm bored and nothing is open. I'm 100% Heeb, and my mother was so anti-Christmas that we didn't even do the stereotypical Jew things like eat Chinese food and go to the movies. Doing those things would be a tacit acknowledgment that Christmas existed, and my mom wasn't about to kowtow to the status quo. I've elided all my severe Christmas envy into one mental image: me, at eight, pressing my hooked nose against the window panes of our Christian neighbors' houses as they embraced around the tree, tearing the wrapping paper off their brand new Nintendos in some sweater-clad, ritualized, yuletide orgy.

That was around the time I started begging my parents for a tree, and the answer was always no. "It's a Christan symbol," they'd tell me. When I was younger, my retort was always, "'s pretty!" That didn't really get me far. As I got older I probably responded with, "No, It's a Pagan symbol," but that didn't really work out either."This is a Christian country," my mom would say, "and regardless of its Pagan origins, a tree is for Christians. Case closed."

That twinkling inner desire for a tree never really dissipated, and this year I had an excuse to get one. I moved in with my Episcopalian boyfriend in March, and when December rolled around, I started lobbying for a tree. Dear Mom: Maybe if you had let me have a tree when I was a kid, I wouldn't be forced to date goys all the time. Just sayin'!


The WASPy bf sort of lumped my tree desires in with my other fake whims, like when I ask for a baby panda or say "Why don't we just move to Miami?" When he realized I was actually serious, he wasn't really on the tree train either. "It's messy," he argued. "Our apartment is small." I countered with "But we could keep in the backyard!" And he begrudgingly agreed. One day after work he brought a small fir in through our side door, and I squealed with glee. I didn't even mind that he made me keep it outside like an incontinent old dog. I thought that my childhood holiday dreams had finally come true, but in reality, only kind of.

Last week I went to buy some cheap lights and tinsel across the street. As I approached the checkout counter laden with garish candy cane festooned crap, I started feeling funny. It was just... wrong. Indescribably wrong! Like drawing a fake mustache on Anne Frank. Like taking a dump on the The Wailing Wall. I was somehow turning my back on thousands of years of heritage for some $1.99 ornaments.

I bought the supplies anyway, and walking home I realized that even though the tree has become a Christian symbol, it doesn't have to be one for me. Cheesy as it sounds, having a tree in my own home can just be an expression of warmth and joy. It isn't about wanting to be Christian, it's about wanting to take pleasure in rituals that I've always admired. That's me in the picture after I decorated the gimpy, listing tree with my boyfriend and some other people. I look sort of stoned, and one of my friends was all, "You're just high on Christmas!" I hope you all get high on Christmas, too. Happy Holidays!

Kyle - Just A Jew on Christmas (South Park) [Youtube]

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I was raised Jewish, but my mom could never give up the Christmas celebrations of her Catholic upbringing. And yet, I was always so jealous of my Jewish friends' Chinese food plus movie nights. I used to beg my parents to let me join my Rachel and Sarah and the other Jew girls for a sleepover instead of sitting around the fire for a read-around of "The Night Before Christmas."

And I don't even like Chinese food. Sheesh.